The unemployment rate edged down slightly in November, with 146,000 people finding work leading up to the holidays. Most of the growth came from the retail trade, professional and business services, and healthcare sectors.
The nation’s unemployment rate now sits at 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008.
But the reduction is deceiving, according to American Enterprise Institute columnist James Pethokoukis. People dropping out of the workforce accounted for the lower than expected unemployment rate. If all the people looking for a job in October were still looking, the employment rate would be more than 8 percent, he said.
Despite the slight growth in jobs, the overall number of people who are unemployed—12 million—changed little in November. The number of long-term unemployed, those without a job for 27 weeks or more, also remained about the same, at 4.8 million. They account for 40 percent of the total unemployment numbers.
Superstorm Sandy, which made landfall on Oct. 29, did not cause a dramatic swing in the numbers, surprising both analysts who said it would cause unemployment rates to soar and those who said it would create hundreds of new jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, natural disasters only affect employment rates when they are severe enough to put people out of work for an entire pay period. Severe weather is more likely to affect hourly employees, either keeping them away from work or generating overtime for cleanup efforts.
Although growth is better than decline, November’s jobless numbers show the nation’s economy still isn’t growing fast enough to reverse the four-year economic downturn. During the past year, average hourly earnings rose 1.7 percent but still lagged the 2.2 percent inflation rate.
“The November jobs report showed job creation far too slow to get the labor market back to pre-recession levels or boost wages,” Pethokoukis said. “Faster, please.”